de jonckheere old masters

Sebastian Vrancx

The Blind Leading the Blind

Panel: 53.7 x 37 cm


Celebrated for mastering the profound depictions of war scenes, Sebastiaen Vrancx’s studious painting technique further extends with his exploration of various other themes throughout his career. His gracefully portrayed seasons alongside his metrical representation of architectural entities only underline a slim portion of the artists’ accomplished plethora.

This particular mannerist painting portrays an acknowledged religious scene – another facet of Vrancx’s panoply – originally made popular by Pieter Bruegel the Elder’s work The Parable of the Blind Leading the Blind (1568), preserved today at the Museo di Capodimonte in Naples, Italy. This Biblical scene from the Gospel of Matthew 15:14 exhibits several blind men unsteadily leading each other on a path; a derisive representation for the underlying paradox.

Vrancx dramatically reproduced the scene with a controlled sense of irony, in the pictorial composition as much as in the delineation of the bleak narrative. The five men walking in a single file are pictured on the verge of a monumental chaos; the first figure having already collapsed from the bridge, dragging alongside the second subject in the water. Agitated and detailed-oriented, this painting emanates restlessness and movement. Vrancx emphasizes his subjects through his choice of vivid colors marking their attires and contrasting with the neutralized vegetal backgrounds. The viewer’s eyes are immediately directed towards the diagonal composition of the tense entity. One is caught up in the embarrassment of the situation which, topped with the feeling of helplessness, is left amazed and amused by his personal interpretation of the blind’s men courage or irresponsibility. The men’s ocular handicaps are revealed progressively, each singular feature becoming more visible to the viewer and concluding with the inevitable fall of the leader.

Provenance :
Private Collection, France.